by j-a

[main menu] [thoughthistory menu]

Nov, 2002


Jim calls this morning and says to never mind coming over. We're not leaving until one, so he'll pick me up, which means I don't have to leave my car at his house. I thank God for this small favor, even though It may not have had anything to do with it.

We left this afternoon for Basye. VA, Jim, Joyce, Danny, and I. Jim had banked his Sarasota time-share two years ago and unless he used the time before the end of November, he'd lose it, and VA was close enough to go for a long weekend. It was a nice drive down, just over four hours. This particular resort (there are several of them in the area) has seven ski slopes, a nice golf course, a small plane airport, a library, a fitness center with a pool, etc. Typical stuff. We got a unit to ourselves, a three bedroom pedestal chalet. Very nice as time-shares go. Three bedrooms. Very roomy for the four of us. Basye is out in the middle of nowhere, ten miles from Mt. Jackson on route 263, which dead-ends a few miles further on at Orkney Springs, a curious historical area. At the entrance to the resort area there is a gas station with a small store, another small store, a restaurant, and the Rte 263 Diner. That's it. Nothing else, and no other commercial enterprise for ten miles. Nothing but farms and individual residences. We ate at the diner this evening. Good, ordinary food at ordinary prices. In the basement of the chalet there was a bumper pool table, where Danny and I hung out for quite a while, shooting pool.


Today, while driving down Rte 11, we happened across a really good flea market on the side of the road. At the edge of the small market area was a guy in a pickup, an older country-hippy type with long hair, dressed in jeans and a cowboy hat, who had a number of musical instruments and some electronic equipment. He had a small guitar in really good shape for $15, including the case. I might have paid fifteen for the case alone. So I bought it. Danny put the guitar in the van and we went looking around, but stuck in my mind was the violin he had for sale. I always wanted to learn to play the violin. I hadn't asked him how much he wanted for it, and I knew that if I didn't go back to find out, I'd regret it later. So I went back and asked. $35. I told him that was more than I wanted to pay, not trying to get a better price, but actually having decided against it. He lowered his price to thirty, which I thought was still too much. He said he'd throw in the extra case, which contained another bow and a pair of maracas. Danny thought the maracas were cool, but I told him I already had two pairs. I told the guy I'd give him $25 for just the violin. He agreed, saying that he'd fallen on hard times. But, as I thought about it, I figured I'd need the bow, because I had thought that the violin didn't have a bow with it. So I gave him the $30 for both items. When we got back to the chalet, I discovered that I now had two bows. Still, though, it wasn't a bad deal, $5 for a bow, a pair of maracas, and a violin case.

After the flea market, we went to Endless Caverns. Same old stuff, really. If you've been to one commercial cave, you've been to them all, except that this tour was a lot more extensive than the ones I've been to in PA. The girl at the ticket counter in the gift shop wore an ankle-length black dress highlighted with red fine line design (and a few other less obvious colors). She was trim and petite, but not short. She looked like Mary Steenbergen, effusing all of the same kind of charm. She looked straight into my eyes as she handed me my change and informed me of the cave procedures, even though she knew I'd heard exactly the same words as she recited them to Joyce. I had the feeling that she was trying to keep me focused on her and I reluctantly lowered my eyes when she stopped talking. As we waited over twenty minutes for the next tour to begin, she kept looking my way, never quite focusing directly on me, probably because I was doing the same thing.

In the caves, Danny and I followed a cute young blond all the way through, while Joyce and Jim hung near the back of the group. I stood close enough to the girl on several occasions that I was able to smell her shampoo, an herbal odor that was attractive in a way, not as off-putting as it otherwise might have been odorizing something else; but it was definitely odd. She looked back at me several times, straight into my eyes, but mostly she looked at me indirectly, as I did her. [This has been a recent theme/technique with me: avoiding direct eye contact with women, because I've become (more) aware of how I might be (interpreted as) flirting with them when my intentions are not so conventional/traditional. But it doesn't work, indirectness. It only serves to intensify the experience as the mystery is enhanced.] She seemed a little shy, although she was not at all shy about asking the guide questions. She seemed interested in me, but the guy she was with, an older man, who could have been her father or her grandfather or a degenerate boyfriend, kept positioning himself between her and me, even though I'm certain that I gave him no indication that I was at all interested in her. Maybe he sensed something. When we were leaving, as I was standing near the door of the gift shop waiting for Joyce and Danny (Jim had already gone outside to get out of the overly warm shop), the couple walked past me. As she passed, she didn't quite look at me, that is, into my eyes, but she looked my way, half-smiling in a subtle double-take as she trailed the man out the door, which he held for her.


We went out driving this afternoon after interest in the televised football games wore off. Earlier, as Joyce was getting up, late, nearly noon, Jim said, "Watch. She'll want to go out and I want to watch the football games, so there'll be a big fight." And he was right. It wasn't long before Joyce asked if we were going anywhere. Jim stated that he wanted to watch the football games. He said it in an overtly detached way, but I detected just the slightest hint of irritation, or temptation, in his voice so that I think he may have been, probably unconsciously, provoking her. She was pissed, but she tried to control it. She said she didn't want to sit around the house all day, so Jim told her to go out then. Obviously, this was not what she wanted. This pissed her off even more. She wanted Jim (all of us) to go with her. I theorize that it was a kind of controlling tactic. Jim relented later in the day, when the novelty of Sunday football on vacation wore off. It helped that the Steelers weren't televised.

We went for a short ride around the area's back roads, looking at the scenery and at private chalets. Then we went out to Rte 263 and turned right and headed to Orkney Springs, where we encountered a very strange collection of dormitory-like buildings that we couldn't glean the nature of. The place was all but deserted and I guessed that the few cars sparsely parked here and there were maintenance people. We didn't actually see any people. We drove around the buildings looking for clues and finally determined that this was an historical area from a single sign small enough that it couldn't be seen from the road so that Jim had to get out and read it. We drove on, but the road ended a short distance on. Orkney Springs is a dead-end, which is very eerie, a two lane highway ending out in the middle of nowhere, like in some old sci-fi film.

We drove back toward the chalet. Joyce started to get pissed because we were going back. Jim ranted at her that there was less than an hour before dusk and if she had gotten up earlier, maybe we would have had time to go more places, which was disingenuous because he'd had no intention of going anywhere earlier. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I didn't really care, but I wouldn't mind driving around some more. Joyce smiled at this, which she took to be a confirmation of her point of view, which I didn't mean it to be. I was attempting to remain perfectly neutral and not be dragged into their going difference of opinion. Since there was really nowhere else to go, we went back to the Rte 263 diner and had dinner.

One of the two waitresses, not the one who waited on our table, but the one who tended the counter and worked in the kitchen, reminded me of the woman at Endless Caverns. I liked the way she looked, tall, yet petite, also reminding me of Mary Steenbergen. As we were paying the bill, we looked at each other in that same indirect way I've previously described.

Yesterday, Jim had seen something in the travel literature from AAA about a local dam and had expressed interest in it. In the hallway into the rest rooms, he'd seen a picture of that dam, and so he asked the waitress where it was. She didn't know, but she used the opportunity to come out from behind the counter and pass close by me to walk into the hallway to see the picture that Jim was talking about, even though she must have seen it hundreds of times before. I followed them, immediately behind her, but Joyce got herself between us. I wanted to get close enough to smell the odor of her hair, to try to make that an ongoing theme for this vacation, but no luck.

The waitress repeated that she had no idea where the dam was. On the way out of the restaurant, as I was walking by the window, the waitress broke the indirect rule and looked straight into my eyes. The window was between the counter and the kitchen, so that she had to go out of her way to get there.

When we got back to the chalet, we played Trivial Pursuit. This time, Jim played. Last night, Joyce, Danny and I played without Jim, who was tired and in pain with his broken arm, so he went to bed. Halfway through the game tonight, Jim became increasing intolerant of Danny throwing the die in a haphazard manner, causing it to fall off the board--no big deal really, but if you're in pain... Finally, he got mad at Dan, quit, and went to bed.


In the van at various times over vacation, and at night at the chalet, we played various types of information games like Trivial Pursuit, the results of which caused Danny to conclude that Uncle Joe was smarter than everyone else. He states this again this afternoon while we are driving toward Mt. Jackson, looking for something to do. He'd said it several times before on previous days. I guess Jim had finally had enough, it being a kind of insult from his son and additionally a sensitive topic between him and me since childhood, so he stated that Uncle Joe may be smarter, but he himself had more common sense. I thought that this should have hurt me. I thought that I should have responded defensively, but surprisingly, I didn't feel insulted, probably because I knew it wasn't true. He made it a point to repeat this statement several times, in response to Danny's continuing effort to assert my intellectual superiority. I finally felt that I should say something before any escalation occurred, so I said. "I know enough to come in out of the rain." Jim said something about that being one kind of common sense, but not the kind he was talking about. There're other kinds. But my comment was enough to kill the topic.

I remembered reading something recently about there being no such thing as common sense. I wished I could remember the author's argument. As it is, I think that common sense is specific to certain in-groups, that what seems sensible to one group of people, nurses for example, might be totally contrary to the sensibilities of another group, say electricians. Once when Rita was visiting me, she lit the burner on the stove and threw the extinguished match directly into the garbage. I told her she should never do that because, although slight, there is still a danger of starting a fire. She countered that they were safety matches. I said that meant that they were safe in the package, that they couldn't ignite unless they were struck against the striker, unlike the old kind of matches that could be lit against each other or against any abrasive object. They were safe only until they were lit. But she didn't buy the argument. Why? Because she didn't have any common sense? Not at all. There are probably any number of people, perhaps even a majority, who believe as she does, said beliefs verified by the fact that they have never started a fire by discarding a used safety match. But among the group of people who have been firemen, a different common sense prevails. We make sure the match is cool first, perhaps by crushing it between our fingers or dipping it in water. We know better. These were the thoughts that occupied my mind during the remaining silent time to Mt. Jackson.

We went to the New Market Battlefield where we saw a 45 minute film about the cadets of VMI who were called upon as reserves, but ended up in the main battle. It was a very affective film, very professionally done, worthy of The History Channel. After the film, walked through the museum. Then we went on a walking tour of the battlefield, a farm, now set up as it was at the time of the battle. Not all that much to see, but interesting for what it was. Jim enjoyed the old farmstead, but he didn't want to walk out onto the battlefield and he tried to convince us not to go. But I said I wanted to go and suggested that he walk across to the return path and wait for us, which he willing agreed to do. When we got back, he asked what was out there. I said nothing, because I couldn't resist the irony, although I really wanted to say that, if he wanted to know, he should have come along.


On the way home in the van, Joyce began a discussion on bisexuality. I can't remember what prompted it, but it was an opportunity to express my theory that there is no such thing, really, as bisexuality, that people are either homosexual or heterosexual and 'bisexual' people are simply those who have adjusted to the other side through continued practice.

Joyce said, "You mean like guys who get married and have kids even though they're gay."

"Exactly," I replied.

Jim was mysteriously quiet throughout the conversation. I thought that he'd have something to contribute.

We then talked about why people are gay. She said she didn't really understand how they felt. I told her that my theory was that it was genetically determined in some way we don't know yet. But, she said, there are theories that say that's it's a product of environment. I tell her that it's just a pet theory of mine, that scientists really don't know. She then goes on to relate stories about several women she works with who are lesbians. I try to follow her implicit argument re the environmental cause of lesbianism, but I think she lost her train of thought and gave herself over to mere description. At one point she said something that contradicted her environmental thesis and I pointed it out to her, but I can't remember what it was. I should have written it down. It was a good point in favor of my genetic argument.

A little bit later, Joyce asked me if I had the book (A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe) that I'd brought along for her to read. I told her it was packed in my bag in the back. I made a mental note to get it for her when we got home, which I forgot to do because as we arrived at my house, I saw Steve heading toward the van as I got out. He asked if I wanted the chairs he was throwing away to break apart for firewood. I told him yeah, sure. He said that he had knocked on my door earlier to ask me, but he sees that I was away. As I spoke to him I was busy getting my stuff out of the back and dealing with other stuff that had fallen out when I opened the door, and Danny was getting the guitar and violin out, planning to carry it up for me because he wanted to see how big my fish had grown. I'd told him about them over vacation. I should have told him to remember to get the book for Joyce. Young minds are so much more agile.


Residue conclusions from my vacation trip:

War is stupid. The Civil War battlefield and accompanying film remind me how idealists set themselves up for an untimely death, and how much good could have been done during the subsequent lifetimes of the people who were killed. (On the other hand, look how much evil may have been prevented. Is it a wash, or does good lose out? Probably the latter.) Being raised in the north, I have this bias against states' rights, even though, in all other respects, I resist the incorporating practices of the federal government. I'm not against a central government per se (well, maybe I am at that, although I see the logic and the motive of evolution), but I am against a centralizing design that disenfranchises large portions of the poulation, relegating them to the status of second-class citizens or even non-entities. We don't do this so much in this country as we do it, or it is otherwise done, in other parts of the world. If we must continue to centralize, it should be by an all-inclusive mechanism. But when have we ever done that? The history of the human race is replete with examples of disenfranchisement, certainly among conquered population, but even within nation-states. War and disenfranchisement are merely nature's way of weeding out the unfit, another example of natural selection.

I'm ambivalent, then, toward a central government. [It's a motive that I see pitted against a (true) Christian way of life. I posit the role of government here as a non-welfare state, which seems logical. If you must have government, then it should be mean and lean, expending minimal resources. If government were truly Christian and maternal, this would be a different matter; but it cannot be, truly. It costs too much.] This means that I have a limited sympathy for the rights of individual states. I guess this makes me a true American, more so that someone on either side of this (still continuing) debate, because I embody the basic American schizoid split. Are we a federal system or a collection of individual states? The prevailing position is that we are the former, although there are many examples of how we function as a harmonious collection of nation-states. [In either case, we split again over the issue of whether any form of government should mother its people, or minimally execute, legislate, and judge.] But if I would have to choose, I might choose loyalty to a state over loyalty to a federal system. And between a state and a local government, I might choose the latter. And between a local government and a neighborhood, still the latter. And the same between neighborhood and family. Because what it all boils down to for me, being basically narcissistic, is a loyalty to myself. Isn't it great that we can live in a country that doesn't force us to have to make these kinds of choices?

On the other side of the nationalism coin, we see the face of the individual. I marvel at the extent of individual influence, even as I resist believing in it. We are pawns, I want to think, at the hands of government leaders and bureaucrats--and, of course, businessmen. Yet I see examples all the time of how individual effort against the tide of human affairs has changed the system for the better. I think of this in the context of individuals who have willingly given their lives for a cause, whether it be a winning or a losing one. You can make a difference by acting, even when that act causes your death, which can be one small species' step forward. When you decide this for yourself, that you are a small cog in the big wheel that is more important than you are, and that you can make a difference, however minute, which when added to all of the other minute differences of others, effect great change, then you are a truly social person. This is only a glimpse I get of the process of socialization, which is something I've struggled with all my life. I'd rather be an individual, even if that stance is merely a treasured illusion. I don't believe in anything enough to surrender my life for it. My life is too precious to me. It's all I really have. But from time to time I glimpse the logic of the opposite position.


Jim called this afternoon. He asked "Did you learn how to play the fiddle yet?" I stumbled with the response. It wasn't a question I was prepared for. I mumbled something like "sort of." Then he asked me if I wanted to work tomorrow. I said sure, despite the fact that he hasn't paid me yet for the last two jobs I did, one of which was several years ago. I mentioned this to him, and he said "I'm good for it." I said, "I know you are." But even if I thought he waen't, I'd probably still work for him, at least this time, because he can't do the work himself with his broken arm. I didn't want to press him for the money, I just wanted to know if he remembered that he owed me. It may seem to some like an injustice or a slight that he never paid me, but I try not to think of it that way. I don't really need the money, and it's a karmic credit for me. When Jim creates this situation, he perpetrates an injustice on himself, really. If that's the kind of person he chooses to be, well then, so be it. That's a choice he makes for himself. What I really should have done is not to have called attention to the debt at all. But should I really have done that? With another person, maybe, so that I could be one (or two) up on him, being owed instead of owing or breaking karmically even. But if I hadn't mentioned it, wouldn't I be aiding and abetting my brother's delinquency? In this sense, isn't being owed almost as bad a karma as owing, especially when you allow it in order to maintain an upper hand? Maybe. But maybe my idea of karma is all screwed up. It wouldn't surprise me at all.


I awaken at one-thirty in the morning after five and a half hours of sleep and can't get back to sleep, so I get up and turn on the computer. I work all night, take a shower, and then cook myself some eggs. Jim calls at about eight to tell me not to come over until ten, instead of nine. I work on the computer a little bit more. I leave the house at twenty to ten, planning to stop at the bank on my way. As I'm exiting the house, I see Terry exiting his house across the street. He asks me if I want some donuts. (He works at Krispy Kreme.) I say sure, even though I'm trying to lose the six pounds I've gained on vacation. He gets a dozen out of the back seat of his car for me. I tell him I appreciate it. I really do. I love all kinds of food, especially the free kind.

When I get to Jim's house, he's not there, but the door is open. I go in and eat two leftover Halloween candy bars and then am immediately disgusted with myself for abandoning my protein diet that I just started with the eggs this morning. But, I rationalize, I've got that dozen donuts to consume anyway. Jim shows up a few minutes later. He's pissed. He's been on the phone at the fire hall with AT&T. They've disconnected his phone for not paying a bill of less than twenty dollars. He's been disputing the bill since he got it last month. AT&T has switched service in our area to AT&T Broadband. I empathize with Jim because I've just been through a similar problem. They switched over without notifying anyone. (They told Jim they sent out notifications, but both of us not getting notices is a bit suspicious.) It's a corporation suffering from severe bureaucratic bumbling.

I had planned to go food shopping on the way home, since the food stores are on the way, but I was so tired from working all day and not having had enough sleep the night before that I came straight home, went to bed and consumed ten of the twelve donuts while watching tv, and then slept for four hours. What a life.

Working with Jim is physically demanding when I don't do it every day. It's been over a week since I last did any physical work (not counting some shelves I put up in my basement), and my muscles are sore again. I guess that I'd have to work nearly every day to get in shape again. The last time I worked with Jim, after about four hours of crawling up and down ladders, my leg muscles were so tired that I couldn't keep my legs from shaking while I stood on the ladder installing an outdoor porch fixture.


Went shopping and bought a lot of cheap protein and spent about half an hour rearranging my freezer to fit it all in. At one of the stores, as I was exiting, the manager was blocking the aisle doing something I was unconcerned with, having been in a kind of shopping fog where all I wanted to attend to was getting what I came for and getting back home. A girl I see often, standing at the express checkout, upon whom my attention was indirectly focused (so that she wouldn't see me looking at her), says to me, "Did you get your free buns." I pretended that I didn't know she was talking to me and adopted a faux-confused pose as I looked at her. She repeated her question as I looked into her eyes, immediately realized what the manager was doing in the aisle, and turned to him. The way he had been standing previously, and the way he had turned as I passed behind his back, prevented him from having given me the free buns and coupons he was distributing. I thanked him and turned to leave, not looking for a moment at the girl. And when I did look at her, she was no longer looking at me, echoing my original indirect tactic. But she had a knowing, satisfied smirk on her face, as if she were thinking she had accomplished something significant. It made me feel good, that she had gone out of her way to contact me, if only very briefly. I like her, but I think she may be too "social" for me to become involved with (which could probably be said of anyone).

On the way home, outside a bar on Rodi Road, a fire in a huge outdoor barbeque was just beginning to spread to at least one of the umbrellas on the outdoor tables. The entire huge metal barbeque pit was engulfed in a bright red flame fueled by fat and protein. People stood around observing and talking as if it were a family reunion. I saw Steve's brother, who works at an adjacent business, among the small crowd. It must have just happened, because the fire siren was just going off as I arrived home.

I went off my diet again and, as soon as I could get it cooked, consumed one of four (packaged two per pack) pizzas that I bought. I've got to get serious about losing the extra weight I gained on vacation.


Forced myself to get up at noon with only five hours of sleep in order to be able adjust my sleep schedule back to nights, because I have to work with Jim tomorrow. Since it's been warm, I was going to go outside to cut up some wood and trim the apple tree before the first freeze, and maybe clean up the basement a little bit. But I didn't feel like it, so I played around on the computer for a bit and then went back to bed and watched tv movies all day and evening. Very unproductive day. But, hey, it happens. Made a pig out of myself for a third day in a row. Ate another whole pizza and several bananas. It takes a lot more will power than I've been willing to exert recently to lose weight. Eating only protein is a boring bitch. But yesterday I bought some carb-free sausage on sale that'll make consuming eggs a lot easier.


Jim called this morning and cancelled work for today. He said he isn't feeling well. Good. I didn't want to go anyway.


Going to work with Jim today, hopefully, he says, to finish up the house in Homewood, although I kind of doubt it. He has a tendency to underestimate the time involved. This going out to work nearly every day is getting boring, and it's beginning to take its toll. I'll be glad to get back to my regular (non-) schedule. I'm beginning to feel a bit foul-tempered and out-of-sync. I'm getting more sleep than usual and feeling more tired. It's beginning to dawn on me that a major source of stress in my life may have been forcing myself to function in a manner non-synchronous with my natural biorhythms.


When Jim dropped me off yesterday afternoon, he said he'd call me after his doctor's appointment (to replace the splint on his arm with a permanent cast). But he never called. I wonder what's up.

Jim calls this evening. He says he called late this afternoon and left a short message. (I was out shopping.) But there was no message on the machine. But it does that sometimes, if you speak in a low voice or for too short a time. He told me he was in too much pain this morning, but he'd call me tomorrow morning before he picks me up to go and finish the Homewood job.


Jim didn't call again this morning. Something must be up. Meanwhile, I'm trying to get back to my normal schedule. Today, I forced myself to go outside and cut wood. I never really mind cutting wood, or for that matter doing any outside work, but I never want to take that first step. I tell myself that I'll go outside and move one armful of wood to the back yard and cut up just one piece, because I know that if I begin, I'll continue, but even if I don't continue, at least I'll get some token activity done. As it were, I got a whole lot done, and even trimmed a few branches off the apple tree, which is severely overgrown, and I removed the pump from the concrete pond in the side yard. A fair afternoon's work. Once I start working, I never want to stop. I had to force myself not to go into the basement and begin organizing it. It was too late in the day and I had other things to do in the house. And besides, it was starting to get dark and it feels good to settle into bed early and watch tv, as if I'm actually living like a normal human being.


Today I managed to execute my ideal day, a rare occurrence: meditation before getting out of bed, computer work in the morning, home projects in the afternoon, tv in the evening while reading or doing art, music or minor paper-type projects (tonight it was the latter). I've been using melatonin to regulate my sleep/wake cycle in case Jim wants me to work with him. Maybe I should do this all the time. I'd miss the all-night Internet sessions, though. And the tv and fantasy marathons. It'd be sort of like using Prozac to become an ordinary, well-adjusted citizen. It's all fine and good, but where's the diversity?


My "depression" may be a kind of quasi- or pseudo-depression induced by my sedentary lifestyle. I hide from the world inside my house and sit or lie around seeing no hope for the human race and thus having no real reason to actually do anything (if I had to go out to work, I might be stressed, but I wouldn't be "depressed"), so I conclude from my behavior (ala Bem) that I must be depressed. (Which came first, the chicken or the depression?) This could be the reason I perk up when I become active. Since I've been keeping regular hours and maintaining a more or less ideal schedule, I've been feeling pretty good about myself. But maybe I'm just fooling myself. Maybe it's a shifting of a depressive cycle that's prompting these activities, instead of vice versa.


I finally got an answer to my last e-mail to my sister in which I described the unfolding events re my nephew, Jay. She said she hadn't answered because she was overwhelmed and didn't know what to say. I'm glad that was the reason because when I send someone a written communication and they don't respond, I always think, paranoid that I am, that I said something wrong, that I made some social faux pas, or that what I wrote was ill-informed to the point of being ridiculous, or silly, or... whatever.

It's very possible that we do not live too far beyond death. If this is the case, the purpose of life becomes not what we ascend to after death, but what we achieve during life. And the highest achievement, it seems to me, is advanced awareness.

Whatever is most important (not necessarily to us in any given moment, but to life in general) is what we should be doing. If I keep putting off what I know to be important in order to engage in more frivolous activities like writing, watching tv, doing art, etc., then when will I ever get around to doing the more important stuff?

If Awareness of God, or the spiritual, or whatever, can occur only while we live, even if that is only a possibility, then why do I keep putting off meditation in favor of other, more worldly things? I haven't got all that much time left.

It may be too late to be aware when I will die. And it's bad enough that we have to devote so much of our time to insuring our continued survival and prosperity. I have to integrate the pursuit of higher forms of awareness into my daily life, before it's too late. I know I've come to this conclusion many times before.

My work, it seems, apart from my purpose of awareness and my imperative to survive and prosper, is to put things into order. It's what I've done, naturally, all my life. It's how I made my living when I've worked at thankless jobs.

I put ideas in order via writing, et al. I put my house and estate in order by physical activity, repair and remodeling projects, etc. I order everything I can, when I am not too tired or lazy to do it. It's my motive of resistance against entropy. But lately, often, I've been getting lax. I've lost my way again big time.

One common thread through this ordering process that is my life has been simplification. Simplify everything, and then simplify further. Keep simplifying. Decide what's not important and eliminate it or move it to the bottom of the list.

What's not important? Movies. tv. News. News? News is not important? Not most of it. Most of it is bullshit. And the little bit of it that's not can be gotten off the radio. Therefore, I am going to cancel the cable. It costs too much for what I get out of it, nothing more than diversion away from what's important.

I don't have enough time to order things that come my way because I'm trying to order the frivolous information that I get from tv diversion. I've got to focus myself more accurately, in order to accommodate stuff that "nature" bestows on me.

"Autistic... What does that mean? Nothing gets through?"

"Just the opposite. Everything gets through. But he has trouble with feelings and emotions and gets very frightened and confused."

from the film Mercury Rising
I've tended to think of autism in this same way, even though I know (i.e., had previously learned) better. Was I borderline autistic when I was a kid (as well as still, as an adult)? Are the difficulties addressed in The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron symptoms of a near-autistic state?

I often feel overwhelmed and my response is to withdraw, spend some time alone, cut off from people, to deal with the world in my own idiosyncratic way, constructing my world to my own definitions and ignoring the larger, more caustic "real" one. It's not as real as everyone seems to want to think it is.

On the Imus show, Don bans Sid from the studio for leaving the volume turned up on the headphones, causing Imus consternation every time he has to turn it down. So Sid has to sit in a different studio alone to do his report. On the air, Sid asks for forgiveness, wanting to come back to the main studio. He says he throws himself on the mercy of the court. So Imus tells him that if he clucks like a chicken, he can return. But Sid won't do it. So Imus says he has the choice of clucking like a chicken or meowing like a cat. Sid still won't do it. Then, a little later when Imus asks Sid if he's still on the air after he's been quiet for a while, Sid says "meow."

Sid's mistake is a small one, all but insignificant. And Imus' reprimand and punishment is petty shit. The whole intent was not discipline, but belittlement. This same strain runs through Howard Stern's programs as well (actually, not so much recently as previously).

This is a common management fault that all businesses should guard against. Often, managers project their small-minded, mean-spirited psyches onto their employees, making them suffer for their own negative psychologies, when they work so hard to make certain that they're being so exactly correct in their reprimanding and disciplining procedures. In other words, they hide their negative psychologies beneath a veil of proper business form so that they can deny their nasty inner natures.


I went outside and cleaned the leaves out of the gutters on the north side of the house. Tomorrow, I'll do the south side. I came back inside and ran my cold hands under hot water to warm them, remembering that my father told me never to do that because you can scald yourself by not being able to feel how hot the water really is. I can't remember my hands ever being so cold since I was a teenager and spent a lot of time outdoors in the snow, making snow balls without gloves.

Jim called this afternoon and scheduled work for tomorrow. And I was planning to watch the Leonids meteor shower tonight. Now I have to coordinate my sleep time to fit in both activities by going to bed very early (and managing to fall asleep).

On the phone, Jim reports that Jay, after his doctor's appointment, walked all the way home, a distance of about ten miles, because his mother was held up at work and arrived late to pick him up. Jim and Joyce were driving around looking for him, thinking something had happened to him.


Today, after working with Jim for several hours, I concentrated on continuing to remain active. I cleaned the basement, carried wood around to the back of the house, and generally organized the house and yard. I'm starting to think of activity as my (anti-) therapy. The more I do physical things, the less I have to think, and the better I tend to feel. What I really need is a totally unconsciously life. (I'm being sarcastic in case you didn't catch it.)


Nothing happened today, but I'm still trying to remain active, working on token activities like continuing to clean the basement, etc. Jim called this afternoon and scheduled work for tomorrow. He said, "We'll go down there and finish up get some money."

I said, "You say that every time."
He said, "I'm an optimist."

I like earning the money I get working with him. That's one side of an equation that he established a long time ago when he needed help with a series of jobs installing dedicated lines for printers at CVS stores spread across the state. We'd agreed, then, on ten dollars an hour, which was a compromise between what I had been making previously (approx. $22, but as a salaried employee) and the five that he'd pay a neophyte flunky if he could find one who would work for the few odd jobs that he had for him. I figure that ten an hour is the minimum wage that should be paid to anyone who works without benefits. It's like an arbitrary wage limit I set, not only for myself, but for anyone.

But on the other side of the equation is the fact that he's my brother, who's in a bind right now, so that I feel like I should be working for free, helping him out while he's incapacitated. I've thought of telling him this, but I can't get over the fact he's operating a business and must make do, and in any case, he is making money on the deal. And I thought of telling him that I'd work for free for the experience, if he'd agree to pick me up rather than me using my car to transport myself, and if he'd take me on jobs where I could learn new things and gain practical experience, skipping jobs that I've previously determined I knew enough about. I still may suggest this to him.


I go to work with Jim today, first on the job in Homewood, which again we don't finish, because the contractor didn't have all the supplies we needed on site. Then, I drop my car off while Jim goes to Home Depot to get supplies. When he picks me up, I forget my glasses. We go to a house in Penn Hills where we install in new GFI outlets on the back porch and in the garage, kitchen, and bathroom. At one point, adapting an old box to a new one, kluging it together, working in low light, I can't see what I'm doing and am guessing where the screw heads are. I begin to laugh. He asks me what I'm laughing at. I say "A one-armed electrician with a blind assistant." He thinks that's pretty funny too.

When I get home, I continue the outside activity by further trimming down the wayward apple tree in the side yard. As I'm working, my next door neighbor's mother pulls into the driveway. She goes straight into the house. I think "I wish she'd say something to me," and sure enough, a few minutes later when she comes out to leave, she does. I see her approaching up the sidewalk beside the house as I walk down from the back after hauling some large branches up there. She seems hesitant, so that I didn't know if she's approaching to talk to me or if she's just walking around to the back of the house. She doesn't look up at me, so I keep looking up and down at her as I walk back toward the tree, to see if she's looking my way yet so that I can pretend that I just happened look up and see her looking.

"Hello," she says when she gets close enough. "I'm the mother of the girl who lives next door."

"Hi," I say, and I interrupt her next sentence by asking "How are you?"

She stops saying what she was starting to say to say "I'm fine," and then she continues with "Your yard always looks so nice."

"Thanks," I say, but it's all but lost on her as she's already started her next sentence.

"I'd like to apologize for the way my daughter's yard looks, but I can't do that kind of work any more and neither of us have any time and we can't afford to hire anyone"

"Oh, that's okay."

She doesn't look straight at me. She keeps her eyes to the ground and looks up in furtive glances, never quite meeting my eyes. [She's lying. She could do the work, and so could her daughter, if they really wanted to.]

"No. It's not. Not to me. I never used to keep my yard that way."

"It's quite all right," I assure her again. I think to tell her that it's nice to have a neighbor whose yard is always overgrown. It makes my shoddy yardwork look good by comparison. I also thought earlier to say that I don't do so good a job at yardwork. But I don't say these things. Both seem like they might be slightly insulting.

She turns hesitatingly away, as if she wants to say more, but doesn't know how, as if she's intimidated, or as if she's shy. I think that maybe I kept her at a distance by remaining at a distance myself, on the other side of the tree and starting to work again at trimming it as I talked to her. If I had approached her, walked up to a point just across the fence from her, she might have taken that as a sign that I was more friendly. But the tree was in the way and I would have had to duck way down under its branches or walk way around it to get to her.

As she departs, I think, did she want me to volunteer to do their yardwork for them? Fat chance.

Or did she only approach me because she received my psychic message and felt compelled to say something to me, despite her reticence to do it? Who can say?


Yesterday, while we were working at the house in Penn Hills, Jim says that he has a chance to clean out a house that's going to be remodeled. He suggests we rent a Dumpster to do it. On vacation, he asked me if I wanted to go into business with him cleaning out old houses before they're remodeled. He says he comes across a lot of opportunities to clean out old houses, but has had to pass them by. I said sure, I'd be interested. It's always been a dream of both of us to run a flea market/junk shop kind of enterprise, where we sell old stuff, sort of a Sanford Brother's enterprise. On vacation, Jim talked about buying an old dump truck to haul stuff away to the dump. At one point Joyce asked us what we were talking about, and Jim told her that he's considering going into the junk business with his brother. She gives us a raised eyebrows look and a tsk, which indicates to me that the subject has come up before and that either she thinks it's a dumb idea or that she is generally non-supportive. Maybe both.

Anyway, yesterday, Jim asks me if I can make some phone calls today or tomorrow and get prices from several companies on renting dumpsters. He outlines the details of the job he could get. He says if we work up a price, using the highest estimate of the cost of Dumpster as a basis, we can submit a bid. If we get it, fine. If we don't, oh well.

I hesitate agreeing to make the calls, not because I don't want to do the job, but because I feel a twinge of anxiety asserting itself. It's that anti-business motive combining with that old telephone/contact phobia I used to suffer from, before I went into semi-seclusion. Also, I know that he wants me to do it, not because he doesn't have the time, but because he feels the same anxiety. I've seen it in him before. But I realize that, if we are to make a partnership work, I will have to bring a certain expertise to it, since his contribution will be the contacts he has, and since I certainly have the rational expertise and the business experience to organize that aspect of a business. So I tell him that I'll make the calls tomorrow morning (rather than this afternoon, because I'm always at my best immediately after awakening).

So this morning I get up and begin to make phone calls. At first, I'm a bit put off by the experience. I'm rusty at this sort of thing. But as I progress, I begin to get into it and soon, I'm charming the people I'm talking to, especially the women, in that way I used to when I worked for a living. And, being good sales people, they're charming me back, some of them, some of them to the point where I want to do business with them despite the fact that their prices are significantly higher than the less charming ones. But that's what business is all about, isn't it?

Since I'm making phone calls, I call a local music store to find out if they have violin strings, and if they sell them individually. They do. I'd been putting off making that call for weeks. I'm beginning to think that I want to get back into working again. This is partly motivated by the low interest rates not giving me enough of a return on my investments. But partly, it's a result of having been withdrawn now for so long that I've begun to heal. I no longer feel stressed, and all of the chronic symptoms have disappeared. If I'm careful this time, maybe I can prevent them from returning. Certainly, I can avoid working for overly demanding, uncaring employers. But I really must be extra careful when the employer is myself. I can be the most demanding boss of all.


I've been sleeping really well lately, like when I was a kid. I sleep for eight or more hours, wake up groggy and want to stay in bed. This is a real luxury. For a long time, years and years, I've been sleeping fitfully and not long enough and never feeling well rested. Maybe this new sleep pattern is a result of the more regular hours I've been forced to keep because I'm working with Jim. But that can't be the only reason. I used to keep regular hours (more or less; at least as regular as now) and I never slept well, mostly because of the accumulating stress. And the melatonin helps a lot, although I find that I'm sleeping well even when I don't take it for several days. It's a pattern that's developing. I hope it lasts.


Another good night's sleep, and after an afternoon nap of three and a half hours. Wow! Do I feel rested. Getting a whole lot done as a result. Unfortunately, it's all maintenance work. But that has to be done too, and I never, otherwise, want to do it. Watched movies all evening until one am. Catching up. Freeing up old tapes.


Took another long afternoon nap, despite the fact that Jim called and scheduled work for tomorrow. I wanted to stay up so that I could get a good night's sleep, but I couldn't resist the comfortable lazy feeling I settled into. When I awoke at 6:15, I was all motivated, so I began to work on various remodeling projects while I watched tv. Got a lot done. Fixed the toilet seat, reattaching it to the mount after redesigning the pivots by drilling them out and installing large screws--because buying a new one requires just as much work since I'd have to cut it off to fit the small trailer toilet that I have. (That's what I had to do last time.) Took a shower and went to bed at two am.


Jim called this morning and cancelled work, saying he had somewhere else to go. I was looking forward to seeing the house we're going to submit a bid to clean out. Too bad. I finished fixing the toilet seat by attaching rests that I made out of a mud flap from the old truck. Now the seat sits level and works exactly the way that it should. And I rust-proofed with a silicone caulking around the tub drain where the enamel has been wearing away. It looks like it might hold up this time. I should have been using this stuff all along instead of trying to patch it with that lame tub enamel stuff that always chips away. This stuff is transparent and doesn't look so good, but neither did that other stuff. Even though it was white and matched the color, you could always tell that it'd been patched. Besides, function is more important than appearance anyway.


Watching movies. Watching movies. Watching movies. There must be more to life than this. But who cares? I'm happy. (I think.)


I went to Jim's for Thanksgiving dinner. Sitting in the living room watching tv with Jim, I asked him if he submitted the bid to clean out the house and he said yes. I asked him how much he asked for. $750. He said he told Jimmie that he'd give him $75 for eight hours work, or however long it took to clean out the house. I said that was fair. I was worried that he might think that it was okay to pay helpers five an hour, which I would have tolerated since I'd get half of the excess profits. This points up the dilemma between fair wages and profits that business owners continually face.

All in all, dinner at Jim's was a calmer than usual affair, although there were some tense moments. In the kitchen before dinner, as Joyce was preparing the meal, out of the blue she asked me if I would still like her if she hadn't been married to Jim. Since I've already answered this question in my journal, I knew what the answer was. But, of course, I didn't want to admit it to her. So I said, "I like everyone." She told me I was avoiding the question. I repeated that I like everyone. She said no, I don't.

"Well," I said, "I tolerate everyone. I'm not sure I actually like anyone." I was lying, of course, trying to avoid answering her.

"Did you like Debbie?" [My ex.]

I had to think about that. After a pause, I said "Yeah, I did. Or I used to. Before she changed."

"You mean before she became conventional."


We went on to other topics and I managed to successfully avoid having to answer her original question. She could have been probing to indicate that she might be thinking of leaving Jim again. Jim's been saying that he if had it to do over, he'd never have kids, that he and Joyce were happy before they started fighting about the kids. [I think this is a superficial analysis on his part, that the problems are probably much deeper.] And he's been saying that he and Joyce have entirely different ideas about how the kids should be disciplined, with Joyce believing that they shouldn't be disciplined at all, according to Jim, who believes that Jay should be disciplined for not going to school, while Joyce does not. His most recent discipline is to take away the computer. He's had to physically remove the CPU from the house, since removing the cables backfired when Jay came up with substitute ones.

Every two or three days I reassess Jay's situation to try to determine if I'm making too much out of it. I myself think that Jim may be in more danger than he thinks he is (although I'm not too sure exactly what he really thinks about all this). As it is, the situation, apparently, isn't all that tense all of the time. Jim says that sometimes Jay is just fine and acts quite normally. [I observed this state between him and Jim several times during Thanksgiving Day and evening.] But, if you think about it, isn't that what they say about all kids who have sudden outbursts that endanger people? I don't think Jay's attitude toward Jim is unusual. It's a normal thing for boys to rebel against their father at about Jay's age. Jimmie did the same thing. The problem is that Jay resorts to violence. Anyway, everything isn't out of control all the time. But then, it doesn't have to be, does it? It only has to be out of control once for something very bad to happen.

At dinner, Jay said something to Jimmie, I can't remember what it was, and Jim said something like "If you would have gone to school for the last five weeks, you'd know that." Jay got mad, got up from the table, and carried the drink he was drinking into the kitchen and finished it, while Joyce made faces at Jim indicating that he shouldn't have said what he said. (I don't agree. It was a perfectly logical remark for a father to have made to his son, and there was no anger or malice in Jim's voice like there sometimes is when he talks to his family, berating them.) Jay came back to the table and took his unfinished plate of food into the kitchen and then went into the back room. Jim said to Joyce that he thought she told Jay that they were going to limit his (and the other kids') time on the computer, so Joyce yelled into Jay not to get onto the computer, but to come back out and socialize with the family. Jay answered back that he heard what Jim had just said to her, do they think he's stupid? He remained on the computer, defying them.


With a bit of doubt, I called to cancel the cable this afternoon, but after a series of questions as to why I wanted to cancel and if I wanted to subscribe to any alternate plan, they finally hit upon an offer I couldn't refuse: I could keep my existing service for fifty percent off. So, I still have the cable, and it costs me less than half of what it had previously. Good deal. This solution saves me much needed money, but it doesn't solve the real problem. Now I'm going to have to continue to fight the addiction instead of going cold turkey.

This evening, based on a design I saw at a house Jim and I worked at last week, I constructed small wooden latches for two closet doors in the kitchen that never fully closed. One of the latches works perfectly, but the other one doesn't because the doorframe is broken and the door is warped. But I managed to shave off enough of the door edges to make the door fit snuggly into the frame and hold itself in place.


Finally got around to doing the half water change in the aquarium, but it was so bad that I ended up changing all of it and cleaning the tank. It looks so nice when it's cleaned. I think I'll clean it every two or three months from now on.